Posted in lessons, Ministry, Rant

I’m pretty sure this is bad soil.

Photo by Gabriel Jimenez on Unsplash

How much of ministry is throwing seed onto bad soil? I know that sounds like a strange question. But it came to mind the other night after I spent some time with a couple I really hoped would listen, learn and get their lives together as we started premarital counseling. But I doubt this will happen. I have this sinking feeling that the seed isn’t going to grow.

OK, just bear with me. Keep your sermons to yourself. These are just my thoughts. I know nothing is impossible for God. I know all things are possible for God. I know that his word always accomplishes what he intends. I know we’ve all got issues. But I also know that three of the four soils in Jesus’ parable won’t yield a crop no matter how good the seed or the sower is.

You remember the story. A guy is planting seed. More like throwing it everywhere. Some seed falls on the path. Nothing grows. Birds eat the seed. Other seeds falls on rocky soil. No deep roots. Withers and dies in the heat. Still other seed falls among the weeds. Gets choked out by the faster growing weeds. Finally some falls on good soil and grows.

So does this mean that seventy-five percent of the time, preaching and teaching the word won’t yield much result? Does this mean that preaching and teaching only sinks in one out of every four people?

I’ve been reading a lot of Jeremiah lately. I’m glad I didn’t get that call. His call documents laid out the harsh reality that his congregation wouldn’t listen to him and would eventually die or go into exile. Nice. After some of his sermons they beat him up and put him into stocks.

OK, I don’t have it that bad, so stop complaining, right? Plus, what do I know about farming? That is, what makes me so sure I can size up a person and know they are a rocky road or a weed field?

Or — and I don’t like this possibility — maybe I’m doing this because I’m the one who needs to listen and learn from this. Maybe I need to step in a big pile to understand what some folks deal with every day. Perhaps I need to just chill, suck it up, and do my job.

OK, that’s what I’ll do. I’ll let you know how it goes.

Posted in Grace, Ministry

Advent begins

I wasn’t really sure what to expect in worship today. It was the first Sunday in Advent, the beginning of a church season I dearly love, from the Advent wreath and candles to the blue of the paraments. But it was also the Sunday after Thanksgiving, so I thought a lot of families might still be out of town or traveling back in time for work and school tomorrow. Even our organist was out of town, having sequenced all her music on the organ for our traditional service.

Though quiet, it turned out to be a moving morning for me. I focused on the Righteous branch of Jeremiah 33, who we know as Jesus. Our hope is found in the promise of his coming, just as it was for Jeremiah’s audience for whom invasion, destruction and exile were inevitable. Don’t let anyone fool you with the nice words, “Everything will be OK.” Both Jeremiah and Jesus tell us it won’t. Things are bad and getting worse, but we have a Savior who is coming. And that is why we have hope.

Rather than getting swept away in the hurried culture of Christmas preparation, the quiet assurance of Advent has already made an impression on me. I “get it” in a way that I don’t think I did before. I’m getting off the ride and spending some time focusing on the Son of God who came and is coming. Who was here and will be back. Who somehow gives me hope.